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Shaping Tomorrow: HR & OD Insights and Reflections from the PPMA Conference

The HR/OD view – PPMA reflections

One of the highlights of our year as a Premium Sponsor of the PPMA is attending the most important HR conference in the calendar. This year the PPMA took place on 24th – 26th April in Birmingham, and included a prestigious Gala Dinner. This year, we had the privilege of presenting three awards all focused on our priority of identifying and supporting talent; Best Talent Programme, Rising Star and One to Watch, and our Director Julie Towers had the profound honour of receiving the PPMA Special Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Sector.

Having now had a couple of weeks to reflect, the conference was a huge success. It offered a fantastic opportunity to network, listen and learn from a great variety of speakers and topics such as Talent Management, the power of Brand, being an Inclusive Leader, Collaboration and being creative in the workplace to name just a few. With many Public Sector organisations experiencing recruitment and retention difficulties it highlights the importance of all the mentioned topics and how Human Resources (HR) and Organisational Development (OD) can help shape organisational change now more than ever.

Congratulations to the nominees and the award winners from the Gala Dinner, we are proud to be part of an industry that recognises amazing contributions and brings together the Public Sector ‘best in class’ HR & OD professionals in one place. Here are a few reflective thoughts about where the emphasis should be this year for HR & OD professionals.

The Brand of Local Government needs HR and OD’s support.

We have argued for some time now, that the Local Government brand has needed attention and focus. By 2030, The Economist expects the number of eighteen-year-olds to rise by 25%, so how can we excite this new generation to enter the world of public service? Succession Planning remains a focus, but should there be more of a focus on building a ‘Talent Academy’? One speaker argued for this and explained that HR and OD play a vital role in shaping the future workforce. Together we can do more to accelerate an academy approach, which won’t work without sector collaboration – this was a key message throughout the conference.

Creating a culture of “Creative Problem Solvers”

One session which stood out was the notion of being a “Creative Problem Solver” which had the room thinking about how organisational culture can breed new innovative ideas. It’s exactly HR and OD's role to help shape this whether it be simply creating better working conditions through agile working or by refreshing values and behaviours to fit a modern workforce. Once working conditions have been met, organisations will have a greater understanding of the employee mindset and then be able to disrupt the norms. Whilst taking risks and trying new things can be perceived by some as a daunting task, it’s been proven time and time again that it can breed solutions. Much of the Public Sector faces similar challenges, whether that be increased demand, financial, infrastructure, cultural or sustainability challenges to name a few but how often do we make the time to look ‘up and outside’ of our own organisation to try and understand how others might be tackling the issue?

A flexible workforce needs flexible technology.

The term flexible working can mean different things to different people, and we need to ensure there is an individual approach to flexibility. We’ve already seen the 4-day week trial occur at South Cambridgeshire District Council, and the Government’s response to this but it’s important to recognise that this might not work for everyone. Creating a workplace value proposition which focuses specifically on the benefits provided by the physical workplace becomes critical to understanding what the draw is for future employees.

IQ alone is not enough to thrive as a leader.

Being a Leader in the HR & OD community can be ambiguous, complex, and even uncertain but it can also be rewarding, motivating, and inspiring. However, during one session it was argued that “IQ alone is not enough to thrive as a leader”. Emotional Quotient (EQ) and Cultural Quotient (CQ) need to be considered. The six signature traits that an inclusive leader needs are:

  1. Commitment – being dedicated to reach a goal.
  2. Courage – talking about imperfections involves personal risk-taking.
  3. Cognizance – be aware of bias.
  4. Curiosity – think differently (see below point on Creativity).
  5. Collaborative – promotes diverse and new thinking.
  6. Cultural Intelligence – not everyone thinks or sees things in the same way.

At Penna, we want to change the conversation and encourage new thinking in the Public Sector, providing a platform for thought leadership, innovation, and new ways of working. On the theme of developing leaders and helping them thrive, we run our Aspirant Chief Executive programme which looks at exactly how Intelligence Quotient (IQ), EQ, and CQ blend to provide today’s leaders with the skills and abilities needed to lead today’s organisation, just as was discussed at the PPMA Conference.

Our role is to support, recognise, nurture, and promote the next generation of HR & OD leaders. The PPMA have incredible talent programmes and we are working together to support the next generation of Directors through the work we are doing. We recently released a webinar featuring tips and tricks on how aspirant HR & OD Directors (HRDs) can land in this space, what to do to get there and what support you might need along the way. Check out the link to find out more.

The future of HR and OD is certainly in safe hands as we start to look forward to 2025’s PPMA Conference.

Matt Jones is a Senior Consultant in our Executive Interim Practice and Rachael Morris is our Senior Consultant in our Executive Search practice. Both Matt and Rachael are our national sector specialists in the HR & OD field. If you want a conversation about how we can help you, please get in contact at

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